Supplier Diversity

By definition, supplier diversity is the process of reaching out to groups not traditionally included in the supply chain, including women-owned businesses that want to compete for contracts.

Despite the surging growth of Canadian women entrepreneurs who are starting businesses at twice the rate of men and who want to increase growth, women-owned businesses are seriously under-represented in procurement contracts.

Women are involved in 85% of purchasing decisions, yet comprise less than 5% of domestic and international suppliers to corporations and governments. This not only inhibits the growth of women-owned businesses, it also means corporations are missing out on the innovation women bring, and the quality products and services women-owned businesses provide to the marketplace at an escalating pace.

What does this mean for corporations?

Corporations are now realizing that to be competitive, their supplier base should reflect the growing diversity of the Canadian marketplace. By implementing supplier diversity programs, corporations are driving value and innovation by developing a more inclusive vendor network.

Increasing the number of suppliers drives up quality and drives down costs. It also creates a competitive edge. Many women-owned businesses have products and services that fill unexploited needs in the marketplace.

What does this mean for women business owners?

Supplier diversity is about giving women-owned businesses full and fair opportunity to bid on contracts. It’s about leveling the playing field. After that, the business must go through the standard tendering process and be assessed on its own merits.

Supplier diversity is a tool for women business owners to propel their businesses forward into new markets. The door is open for you: now you, as the business owner, have to ensure that your business is ready to provide the products and services that large corporations require.

The process doesn’t happen overnight, and it does take persistence and patience. You have to build your core competencies and develop a broader network. However, with this work, you will gain a competitive advantage, you will grow your networks, and you will grow your business. Be a part of the inaugural movement for change by making supplier diversity work for you!

What can women business owners do to take advantage of supplier diversity opportunities?

Get WEConnect Certified: Certification verifies that your business is majority-owned (51%), managed and controlled by a woman, or wo-men. This is crucial to multinational corporations and government procurement departments that need to demonstrate and measure diversity in their procurement practices.

Once certified, your company profile will be added to the WEConnect Database, which corporations use to search for women-owned suppliers. You will also gain access to many training, networking, and professional development opportunities offered only to certified women business owners. NLOWE facilitates Certification for WEConnect in Newfoundland and Labrador. To find out more, please contact the NLOWE Business Growth Advisor in your region.

Network: Get out and meet the buyers! The WEConnect conference held every November is a great place to do this. Many of the procurement officers from the top corporations in Canada attend this event. There is no better way to promote your product and service than getting in front of the buyer.

Are you interested in international markets? Attend the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) conference held every June and organized by the certifying body for US companies. It’s the largest supplier diversity conference held in the US and NLOWE will be there. Contact us to find out how you can be a part of it.

Research: In Newfoundland and Labrador, many of the natural resource projects now have a requirement to develop a diversity plan. Business access for women-owned business is often an integral part of that plan. Research the projects, find out which projects have diversity plans, and find out how your business may be able to supply to those projects. Projects with diversity plans are looking for diverse suppliers like you.

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